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Slint - Spiderland CD (album) cover




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4.12 | 132 ratings

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5 stars The album Spiderland from Slint is widely credited for being the album that started the post-rock/math-rock movement. Released in 1991, it was the product of 4 mostly unknown musicians in an unknown band. With only one other album to their name, these 4 unassuming musicians ended up creating a movement that is still alive and well today. But, at the time, Spiderland did not do so well upon release, and didn't receive its notoriety until long after the band split up.

Already, Slint was having problems. Their debut release was pretty much unknown and their bass guitarist had left. The members of the band had all started going to college, and only got together sporadically and eventually more often through the summer of 1990. There are even stories that members of the band were institutionalized during the completion of the album. However, one thing was sure, the band wanted their album to sound markedly different from their first album. They tried various methods of recording, including just playing a repetitive guitar, bass, drum pattern and then adding special effects, vocals and embellishments after. In the end, the special effects were completely left off of the album, which was probably a good move. But, the band definitely paid the price as they worked hard on it even at the peril of their sanity.

The finished product ended up with what was at that time a unique sound with angular guitar patterns, unique uses of dynamics, irregular meters and rhythms and vocals that alternated between mumbling spoken word passages and hysterical shouting, but all with narrative style. The album ended up with 6 tracks and a fairly short run time of a little over 30 minutes. But, what a long-lasting punch it delivered.

It all starts off with 'Breadcrumb Trail' which is about a day at a carnival with a fortune teller. It features both clean guitar passages and dissonant, screeching sections. The sound of the music is fairly familiar to most people now as a post rock heaviness, but back in the day, it was a unique sound. Verses are soft with spoken word while the choruses are heavy, noisy and the vocals more frantic. The guitar work seems to be inspired by King Crimson. The music really does seem inspired, even all these years later, and since there were no 'rules' so to speak for post rock, it seems quite inventive even now. 'Nosferatu Man' is inspired by the silent film version of 'Nosferatu'. The beat is more regular, but the high screeching notes of the guitar begin right off the bat this time even with the mumbling spoken word vocals. The percussion uses less cymbal crashing and more snare and tom-toms. The chorus features chunky riffs giving it a nice heavy feel. There is a long instrumental section on the last half of the track that sees the band develop the music further adding additional texturing which would be a practice used by many future post-rock bands.

'Don, Aman' begins mysteriously and more minimal with spoken word and simple guitar. The lyrics deal with the thoughts of a man before, during and after a visit to a bar. The quietness of the vocal delivery invokes the man's inner thoughts. The guitar picks up the pace by strumming a chord sequence and the vocals come back in, still mostly whispered. The volume suddenly increases when another louder guitar comes in for a short time, but then it backs off again and more hushed vocalization. 'Washer' starts off barely discernable, but the full band soon comes in with a slow crawling pattern and then normal, yet soft singing vocals. The music slowly builds, becoming less ambient and more melodic. The music develops and then backs off several times, but each time, it slowly gets more intense but at other times gets quite minimal. Finally, well into the sixth minute, it gets suddenly louder and heavy with intense guitar layering for a short time, and then it backs off again before concluding.

'For Dinner'' is an all instrumental track. It is mostly quite minimal with occasional outbursts of throbbing guitar, but always in a swelling manner, not abruptly. Tension builds and then releases throughout the track. 'Good Morning, Captain' is much more forward in it's sound with a solid beat and dissonant guitar patterns, very similar to a Velvet Underground vibe. This song is a tribute to 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. The music is much tighter than the last few tracks, with a definite solidity which increases in volume and intensity in sudden dynamic outbursts. The spoken word vocals rise above the heavy layers underlining the importance of the lyrical content of the track. During the recording of the track, vocalist McMahan ended up getting sick because of his having to shout over the guitars.

The iTunes edition of this album has an additional track with a duration of about 15 minutes, but is simply just field recordings taken at the quarry where the picture used for the album cover was taken.

The first and last tracks of this album are the best, but are even best appreciated by hearing the entire album together. Overall, it becomes quite an essential recording, important to progressive and rock music lovers because of its influence that it would have in the creation of a new sub-genre. I call it a definite masterpiece with its use of dynamics and the musicianship involved, the amount of restraint and the sacrifice on the band to record the album. Yes, they had their KC and VU influences, but they ended up making a new invention with this combination that worked well. Unfortunately, the band ended up breaking up only to return for occasional gigs after they became more notorious, but the band members all went their separate ways, but continuing to have quiet influence in bands like 'Tortoise', 'King Kong' and 'The Breeders' among others and having influence on the sound of bands like 'Godspeed You! Black Emperor', 'Isis', 'Dinosaur Jr.', 'Explosions in the Sky', and 'Mogwai'. So, yeah, that pretty much makes the album essential.

TCat | 5/5 |


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